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Links: Bryce Harper hates BYU; Steve Smith surprises fans; the BYU-Boise State rivalry

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, June 7, 2015, in Washington. The Cubs won 6-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper looks on from the dugout during a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Sunday, June 7, 2015, in Washington. The Cubs won 6-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass, AP

Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper isn’t what you call a conventional member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As the Deseret News’ Jerry Earl Johnston wrote last month, “he’s not your father’s Mormon. He has shaggy hair, a beard and a brash style, and he plays the game with abandon.”

You can add something else to that list: a hatred of BYU.

In an interview on MLB Network, Harper was asked what his favorite incorrect Mormon stereotype was (at 11:56 mark of video). His response: “That everybody likes BYU that’s Mormon. I hate BYU. I mean, BYU is just — I can be a fan, but I don’t like them. There are a lot of Mormons that don’t like BYU.”

Steve Smith plays receptionist, surprises fans

The Baltimore Ravens selected 20 season-ticket holders to tour their Under Armour Performance Center, but when the fans walked into the lobby, they got another surprise. At the reception desk, hiding behind a newspaper was Ravens receiver, and former Ute Steve Smith Sr.

As the fans came up, Smith revealed himself wearing full football gear.

“It’s cool you get to see their different reactions,” Smith said. “If you come in a facility like this and you have never been here before you get a hands-on experience. I don’t care how old you are ... it’s a unique experience and a lot of people don't get it. You have these fans being inside walking inside, walking the same halls as players and hall of famers. You just get those chills and you want to be a part of it.”

The interaction with Smith was just the first part of the tour. From there, the fans toured the facility and were greeted by other Ravens along the way.

“Every organization wants a guy who’s going to contribute to the community, but they also want guys, you’ve got to make plays on the field first before you can really contribute to the community,” Smith told The Baltimore Sun. "You can’t be a horrible football player and a pillar in your community, or you can’t be a great player and a terrible person in the community. They have to go hand in hand. So it’s just a great opportunity to do it. … It gives me the opportunity to be a part of what they have going on.”

College football links

Bleacher Report released its top 15 most anticipated Pac-12 games of the season and the Utes made two appearances.

Utah’s season-opening game against Michigan is No. 14, and the Utes' contest against UCLA is No. 12.

“We'd like to say this game is getting national attention because of how Utah played last season, breaking through to win nine games after a few losing records before that,” writes Brian Pedersen about the Michigan contest. “But the Utes are the undercard to the main attraction: new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.”

Utah had three games (its matchups against Arizona, Arizona State and USC) included in the “just missed the cut” section, where BYU’s contest against UCLA was also listed.

BYU and Utah will not be playing for the second straight season, but the hiatus caused by conference realignment has also helped create new rivalries.

The Oklahoman ranked the top newly found rivalries and BYU-Boise State came in at No. 5.

“BYU became a Western power in the 1970s, then Boise State did the same in the 2000s. They met only twice, 2003 and 2004, before BYU went independent and Boise State joined the Mountain West. Now the teams have an annual series for Mountain Time Zone supremacy.”

The Associated Press’ Ralph Russo released his early bowl projections for the coming season. He has BYU heading to the Hawaii Bowl to play Temple, Utah going to the Sun Bowl to matchup against Louisville and Utah State traveling down to the Las Vegas for a showdown with Cal.

Other links:

— How LeBron James is writing the greatest NBA Finals story ever told. (Yahoo)

Stephen Curry's struggles continue as LeBron outduels MVP again in Game 3. (Sports Illustrated)

— NHL executive: Lose playoff beards, fellas. (The Columbus Dispatch)